Summary: Jesus teaches us that the best thing we have to smile about is our God-given faith in him.
Have you ever met someone who always seems to be smiling? They’ll be standing at the end of a long SuperStore checkout line and smile while everyone else looks slightly flustered. Or they’ll smile while eating an overdone steak while everyone else is grimacing as they chew. They will even smile as they hand over their last hundred dollar bill in a game of monopoly to the guy who built a hotel on Boardwalk! If you spend enough time around someone like that, their constant smile can get a bit unnerving moving you to finally blurt: “Whatcha smilin’ about?”
That was the question Jesus asked his disciples in our text this morning. And it seems like a silly question because his disciples had just returned from a mission trip during which they had been given the ability to heal the sick and drive out demons. Wouldn’t you smile if you could cure cancer? And yet Jesus told his followers that they had something even better to smile about than possessing the power to heal. As we gather around our Thanksgiving dinners this weekend Jesus also asks us: “Whatcha smilin’ about?” Are you smiling about the family you have or your good job? Are you smiling because you’ve just gotten over a nasty cold? Are you smiling because tomorrow is a holiday? These are all good things to smile about and to give thanks for, but there is something even better that God has given to us that ought to make us smile. Let’s find out what that is.
Our text describes a high point in Jesus’ ministry. He had enough followers that he was able to send out 72 of them to go through the towns and villages to call people to repentance. He warned them that their task would not be easy however because not everyone would welcome them. But Jesus also promised these followers that he would give them the power to heal the sick and to drive out demons. It was this ability that really excited the missionaries. When they returned, it was the first thing they reported to Jesus. It was as if they still couldn’t quite believe what God had done through them. Even evil spirits had listened to them in the name of Jesus. Wow!
Jesus rejoiced with his followers and said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Huh. Jesus believed in the existence of an evil spirit called Satan. And yet I wonder if even half the people who say they believe in Jesus, also believe that there is a Satan? Well with his pronouncement Jesus reminds us that Satan is a real being. He was once a good angel who rebelled against God and continues that rebellion as he tries to ruin as many people as he can by leading them away from Jesus. And so while the world is concerned about the Ebola outbreak and terrorists in the Middle East, as they seek daily updates on these threats, let’s not forget that there is something, or rather someone we should be more concerned about: Satan. There is no medicine or smart bomb that will stop his attacks on us.